by bjmuirhead

The point about beginnings is that writers need to seek out the best that they can find.

All to often the beginning of a story is within one’s own life, and needs to be separated from one’s life so that it can be made into a story or used in one.

Here, for example, is a beginning:

Recently my niece told me about a Chinese woman working on the family farm. Shortly after that I sent an e-mail asking about Mandarin grammar, and let me say that Mandarin is not a language to learn by oneself with ease. For me, from the beginning, there was a sense of contact with this Chinese woman (or Chinese gal, as she called herself).

The likelihood that I will meet this woman is low. She has a boyfriend who she is travelling Australia with, and she currently lives many thousands of kilometres from me. But I experience some sense of connection with her.

This is a beginning, a real life beginning, out of which I may or may not manufacture a story; out of which some actual contact with the woman may occur, or may not.

I don’t know what other writers think about this type of situation, or what they do with them in terms of their work, but for me this simple sense of connection is the entirety that I wish to understand and write about: there is nothing else except working out what the story will be. Will it be a love story? A story about a jealous boyfriend? Will I include something about being a tourist? About being Asian on holiday in a white country? Is the sense of connection felt desire? How can it be desire?—But if it is, how can we explore it? Will it lead to self-destruction, self-discovery, or just turn the character into an irritating fool?

Whatever I put in, if I take this ‘beginning’ and turn it to a story, then I will be searching for another beginning, one which leads me straight to the crux of the story, namely a sense of connection with someone I have never met.

I believe in and use auto-biographical circumstances like this to build stories which explain the circumstances. I’m not sure that any other way of working makes sense (not to me, at least), and everything I have written is just a means to understand experiences in my own life or in the lives of friends, who often are very upset to find themselves in a story. (They grumble a bit and say it’s okay because it will never be published. I certainly hope they are wrong about that!)